Carrie Jo

Twentysomething wedding and lifestyle photographer Carrie Jo tells about her unexpected start in the industry and how she built a successful business after college

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One of the many beauties of being in your twenties is the surplus of margin that exists in this particular decade. Whether you realize it or not, this decade holds extra room for risk taking, adventure and a little craziness. It’s by no means the only time for adventure in your life. But it’s the perfect time to start setting the tone and building the habits for a life well lived by embracing the challenges, tapping into your creativity and trying new things.

Twentysomething Carrie Jo’s journey to becoming a successful full-time wedding and lifestyle photographer has been filled with challenge and adventure.

As a business major in college, Carrie Jo was set on a career in finance. However, her career plans turned upside down when she and some of her college friends decided to produce an album. During the project, Carrie Jo worked to design the album cover. She learned Photoshop and InDesign, and also discovered she loved taking photos. Others noticed she was good at it and encouraged her to pursue it further.

“I started getting asked to do little shoots here and there, then I was asked to do engagement pictures, then weddings,” Carrie Jo said.

Not quite sure if she should move forward with her photography full-time, Carrie Jo searched for an opportunity to shadow a full-time photographer in order to gain some insight.

“I was willing to do whatever it took to learn from another photographer. Even if it just meant carrying their equipment and bringing them coffee on shoots,” Carrie Jo said. “It was difficult though to find someone willing to let me shadow them. I found out that a lot of people in the industry are very protective over their work. They didn’t want to teach me their secrets, so I could just go off and become their competitor.”

Though the job shadowing idea had only come up with dead ends, Carrie Jo decided to press forward and agreed to shoot her first wedding. Facebook was just up and coming, so after the wedding she decided to make a Facebook album for the bride to view a sneak peek of her photos. The response from her social media friends and friends of friends was phenomenal.

“The rest is history,” Carrie Jo said.

Carrie Jo has since built her business through social media. Immediately after every wedding, she edits through the night, puts a small album up on Facebook, tags as many people in the bridal party as she can and word spreads like wildfire through those tags. She has gained many new clients this way.

After graduating, Carrie Jo lived out of her car and on friends’ couches for a year while building her photography business. With a minimum budget and constant travel on the weekends, it was hard to justify signing a lease. Although she loved the freedom, she began to ache for community once again, akin to what she experienced in college. She knew she needed to find a home base.

She chose to move Knoxville, TN, where she still resides today. Though she still travels a majority of her weekends, she is intentional about staying connected to her community in the city, even if it’s just through a phone call or two while she is away.

Carrie Jo is now 27 and continues to embrace the challenges and adventure surrounding her career and season of life.

While some get burned out from working heavily in the wedding industry, which can typically be expensive and self-centered, Carrie Jo instead got creative to bring some balance. She developed a plan to donate 10% of the funds from each wedding shoot towards building wells in developing countries around the world. Since she launched Weddings + Water 5 years ago, 20,000 people have received clean water through this initiative.

When asked what advice she would give to her twentysomething peers, Carrie Jo proved she didn’t throw away all she learned in business school and her days preparing to be a financial planner.

“It’s important to be wise about finances, so you can be financially free,” she explained. “It doesn’t matter how much you’re investing, it’s about the amount of time the money accumulates interest in a savings account or mutual fund. “

She encourages twentysomethings to take the time to learn about money now, so they can walk into their futures with the right tools for long-term success no matter their career choice.




To view more Carrie Jo’s incredible photos, visit her blog:

Carrie Jo | Website

Wedding and Lifestyle Photographer • 27 • Knoxville, TN

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